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Eyeball Scout Still Squinting At Adrian Martinez

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
“Bugs bunny’s all, folks!”
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Eyeball Scout likes to offer pitchers one ‘eyeball mulligan’ for their debuts, allowing for extra nerves and adrenaline that can skew the stuff and the results. Then he likes to abuse small samples and act like he has some clue about something despite only a couple looks.

However, having caught starts 2 and 3 from Adrian Martinez I am still not really of a strong opinion about who Martinez is and how well his stuff will play in the big leagues. Perhaps tonight’s start against the Rangers will offer more clarity.

In his last 2 starts (at Seattle and home vs. Toronto) Martinez has allowed 15 hits in 9.2 IP, but what has bitten him most has been the long ball. He surrendered 2 HRs in his 4.2 IP in Seattle, then 2 more HRs in his 5 IP against the Blue Jays. So keeping the ball in the park might be a significant key to Martinez’ success going forward, something he shares with current A’s SP James Kaprielian and former A’s SP Jharel Cotton.

From what I’ve seen the changeup is as advertised, coming out of the same arm slot as the fastball, fooling batters and getting some funky swings, and diving late after hitters commit to their swing.

The slider looks like a decent “work in progress” sometimes serving as an important tertiary pitch and at other times missing its spot. Perhaps with enough reps the slider improves to be more consistent; already it is a useful third pitch to keep batters off of just the fastball and changeup.

What Martinez’ success, or lack thereof, seems to come down to is his fastball. The velocity is fine, averaging 93.7 MPH and sitting about 10 MPH above his changeup (83.2 MPH). The question is its movement, which is supposed to be hard sinking action yielding a lot of ground balls.

Let’s compare what the Eyeball Scout has seen with what Statcast notes. To my eyes, Martinez’ fastball sometimes flattens out and loses the sinking action he needs on it to be successful. I even wonder if his arm slot is a bit inconsistent, causing him sometimes to get the desired sinking action on his fastball but at other times causing the pitch to straighten out and await mashing.

Certainly batters are getting his “sinking fastball” airborne too much of the time, as the HRs and some other line drive hits will attest — from my recollection most of the damage off Martinez has been on the fastball.

So what does Statcast “see”? Through 3 starts Martinez has a ground ball % of just 35.3%, well under the league average of around 43%. And indeed, batters are hitting a robust .378 (.475 wOBA) on it compared to just .200 on the changeup and .250 on the slider.

But in terms of movement Martinez rates out ok. Statcast has his sinker with 23.8 inches of ‘drop’ and cites that as being 5% better than average. With 18.1 inches of horizontal movement, the sinker also rates ever so slightly above league average.

What that tells me is that Martinez is throwing plenty of good sinkers, but my eyeball theory might be correct that he is mixing in a few duds — possibly from a slightly altered arm slot I thought I might have picked up in his last start — and those just aren’t being missed by big league hitters.

So watch the sinker tonight and see if its action is consistent or whether it sometimes flattens out and if those are the ones that get launched. Martinez’ success may boil down to his ability to get consistent sinking action on his fastball, so as to get more ground balls than league average — instead of far too many fly ball, a whopping 18.2 % of which have landed in the bleachers.

And that’s your “small sample eyeball theater” for today.


Where do you see Adrian Martinez landing as a big league pitcher?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Still young, improving, will emerge to be a solid #4 SP and a surprising return, e.g., Cole Irvin.
    (74 votes)
  • 33%
    Nothing special but will be a back-end SP to fill out a rotation, e.g., Daniel Mengden.
    (69 votes)
  • 17%
    Just fungible filler, up and down filling the #5 spot until the team is actually good, e.g., Aaron Brooks.
    (35 votes)
  • 13%
    Won’t make it as a SP, will move to the bullpen and then eventually to the waiver wire, e.g., Jharel Cotton.
    (27 votes)
205 votes total Vote Now